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MOTOR RACING / SHAV GLICK : Rainey's Help Lands Filice a Better Ride

September 10, 1993|SHAV GLICK

Jimmy Filice won the American Motorcyclist Assn. 250cc road racing championship this season riding for Wayne Rainey's Yamaha team. He won nine of 10 races, usually wire to wire.

As a reward, Rainey entered him in Sunday's United States Grand Prix at Laguna Seca Raceway. But Rainey couldn't get him a new racing bike from the Japanese factory, so he entered Filice on the same production-like machine that Filice rode to the American championship.

Then, last Saturday--a day before Rainey was seriously injured in a crash during the Italian Grand Prix--he called Filice with news that he had helped him get a factory ride with Suzuki.

"Wayne released me from his team because he wanted me to get the best shot available," Filice said from his home in Modesto. "It's a one-race deal on a full-factory bike, but if things go well, it could lead to something next year. I'm at a point where I want to move up and try to win a world championship. That's my dream."

Filice, 30, who won the 1988 U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, will be on a bike campaigned earlier in the year by former world champion John Kocinski of Little Rock, Ark. Kocinski and Suzuki feuded this season and the controversial American finally left the team to ride in the 500cc class on a Cagiva. Simon Crafar of New Zealand took Kocinski's place and will be in Sunday's race as Filice's teammate.

"Racing for Wayne was about as good as it can get," Filice said. "Wayne and I have been good friends for a long time, and all my prayers are with him. It was typical of him that even though it meant leaving his team, he was looking for a better situation for me.

"I know he'll be back, as long as there's a breath inside him. Wayne's a fighter and he's a winner."

Rainey, a three-time 500cc world champion, has been hospitalized in Cesena, Italy, paralyzed from the chest down with a broken back and punctured lung. Doctors said he will be airlifted to Centinela Hospital Medical Center today.

The 5-foot-2 Filice knows what it takes to come back from a career-threatening accident.

On Jan. 13, 1990, he was sleeping in a car when the driver also fell asleep and smashed into a parked semi along Interstate 5, near Coalinga.

"We'd been trail-bike riding around Clear Creek and were on our way home," Filice said. "It was just at dusk when it happened."

Filice suffered compound fractures of his right elbow and both ankles, and his pelvis was broken in six places. The driver was not seriously injured.

"My lower legs were so badly damaged that the doctors talked about amputating my left leg," Filice said. "Four inches of bone was completely out of my skin, separated from my leg. I had very little blood pressure, and after the surgery it was 10 days before I knew what was going on. Fortunately, I had a great surgeon, Dr. Steve Rubin of Fresno. I was in surgery for eight hours that night, and I had four more surgeries before I was through."

Filice was in the hospital a month, then spent the next five months at home in traction. It was 13 months before he could ride again.

"The timing was what was so bad," he said. "Less than a month before, I had signed with Honda to ride in Japan and four races on the Grand Prix circuit. That all went away with the accident. It was like I had to start my career over again."

Filice astonished the motorcycle industry by not only racing again, but winning the national 250cc championship in 1991 for Tom Knoulton of Long Beach on a Yamaha production bike. This season, with former national champion Bubba Shobert managing the team for Rainey while Rainey was riding on the world Grand Prix circuit, Filice was so dominating that he lost only once, when the bike suffered ignition failure while he was leading.

He will be one of two Americans in Sunday's 250cc race. The other is Kenny Roberts Jr., son of the former three-time world champion. Roberts, 20, rode in the Spanish 250cc series this year, where he finished second.

Motor Racing Notes

STOCK CARS--Saugus Speedway will run the Featherlite 100 NASCAR Southwest Tour race Saturday night for late-model stock cars of the All-American Challenge Series. Ron Hornaday Jr., the series leader and former Saugus track champion from Palmdale, will be making his 100th consecutive Southwest Tour start. Hornaday, who drives an Oldsmobile, has won three of his last four starts at Saugus and finished second in the other. . . . Pat Mintey Jr. won the Saugus track championship in the sportsman division.

Other Saturday night racing: NASCAR sportsman drivers will run the Twin 25s at Orange Show Stadium; sportsman and street stocks, plus a train race at Cajon Speedway; late models and IMCA modifieds at Bakersfield Speedway; Kragen championship series for late models at Santa Maria Speedway. . . . Tonight, Ventura Raceway will feature street stocks, mini stocks and pony stocks of the Ventura Racing Assn.

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